The Nature and Sacrifice of Christ
Bro. Gerald Sankey


The nature and sacrifice of Jesus Christ has been the subject of controversy among Christadelphians since the troublous day of the 1870’s, during which, the erroneous concept and teaching of so-called “Free-Life” was imposed upon the brotherhood.

The basic teaching of “Free-Life” was/is that Jesus Christ did not possess a nature that is common to all Adams’ posterity, except to possess mortality; and did not come under the condemnation that passed upon all men because of Adam’s sin. Therefore, his sacrifice was not necessary for himself, but rather, only for the benefit of others (i.e. substitutional).

This controversy raged during the times of Bro. R. Roberts and J.J. Andrew (1870’s), who together, valiantly refuted the error, while defending the truth of the matter.

Today, Christadelphians continue to be and remain burdened with essentially the same erroneous concept, because it has been brought to life again, as an outgrowth of and related subject of the error or – the responsibility to the judgment seat of Christ of the Gentile enlightened rejecter of the gospel.

Beginning with the early 1890’s, Bro. Roberts and Andrew parted ways because of contention over the Responsibility Question. Bro. Andrew (and others), though having formerly believed it, had determined that “responsibility” was an inconsistent, therefore, erroneous concept, that contradicted the fundamental concept of Adamic condemnation, and the fundamental doctrines related thereto. Bro. Roberts (and others) were never able to see clearly the conflict and contradiction arising out of these two opposing doctrines, therefore, defended the Responsibility of the Enlightened Rejecter, while as the same time, began to modify his former views regarding Adamic Condemnation and its effect upon mankind.

Today, the Amended (BASF) Christadelphians continue to believe and teach the concepts concerning the nature of man (since the fall of Adam), the nature and sacrifice of Christ – as Bro. John Thomas established them in our community 150 years ago (ref. Elpis Israel and later works). Bro. J.J. Andrew and Thomas Williams defended these basic beliefs after the 1890’s.

So, on to the objective of our study, e.g., to prove by scripture and reason, the truth pertaining to the Nature and Sacrifice of Christ.

  1. The Nature of Christ
    1. “Nature” – by definition (Webster) – 1-a. the inherent character of basic constitution of a person or a thing: essence. 2-b. an inner force, or sum of such forces in an individual. (Note. Cf. Eph. 2:1-3)
    2. Nature refers to:
    1. inherent physical qualities and likenesses, and
    2. to inherent mental and moral characteristics and attributes.
    1. Both a and b apply to Jesus: cf. Heb. 2:14-18; Phil. 2:6-8; Heb. 4:15; 5:18 (with 7:26); Jas. 1:13-15
    2. Consider the teachings contained in our Statement of Faith:
    1. Proposition V – “That Adam broke this law and was sentences to return to the ground from whence he was taken – a sentence which in effect defiled and became a physical law of his being, and was transmitted to all his posterity.”
    2. Proposition VIII – “That these promises had reference to Jesus Christ, who was to be raised up of the condemned race of Adam, in the line of Abraham and David, and who, though wearing the condemned nature, was to obtain a title to resurrection by perfect obedience, and by dying, abrogate the law of condemnation for himself and all who should believe and obey him.”
    1. The Principle (or law) of Cause and Effect:
    1. Jesus’ nature was identical to the nature of Adam, after Adam’s fall from Divine favor and fellowship. (cf. Heb. 2:14-17, Phil. 2:6-8)
    2. Adam’s nature, after his fall, is defined in two aspects:
    1. mentally / morally possessed an inclination to sinning; the propensity to sin; a mental bias against obedience to God, i.e. a bias (or bent) toward unrighteous thinking and deeds; i.e. sinful according to nature.
    2. Physically mortal; possessing a dying, death-stricken, death-doomed physical body, that will eventually die and return to its mother earth. (Gen. 3:19, Eccl. 2:7, Ps. 89:48, Rom. 8:10
    1. #2 defines the Effect or the result bearing upon Adam’s nature, and all his posterity. What was the Cause resulting in the Effect? Answer: Adam’s sin! What consists in Adam’s sin? Adam’s earthy, natural, mental constitution (make-up) was aroused and inflamed at the suggestion presented to him by Eve, his wife. That is, lust that was native to his created state, though initially being latent in Adam, was aroused and became the cause of his sinning (cf. James 1:14-15). Observation: Adam in his “very good” condition (both mentally and physically) had the potential within himself to think and act in either of two directions: the way of God (elohim), or the way of the serpent. This is important when we come to consider Christ.
    2. Adam, the fountain-head of all mankind, became polluted (defiled) in his mental/moral make-up, by the sin of rebellion against his creator, God. This was the Cause that resulted in the Effect. “Sin (the cause) when it is finished brings forth death (the effect).” – James. “The wages of sin is death.” – Jesus.
    3. This development in Adam became a fixation in his mental/moral nature; a law or principle of his nature, therefore, resulting in the same mental/moral fixation in the nature of all his posterity, Jesus included, because being a descendant of Adam (cf. Lk. 3:23,38; Heb. 2:14-18); born of woman.
    4. As a result of Adam’s sin (mental/moral rebellion against God’s law), Adam was condemned to dust (i.e. death); likewise, Adam’s posterity, legally are included in his condemnation. The sentence (by law) was pronounced upon Adam, and because his posterity are constituted in nature identical to Adam’s after his fall, all are condemned (by sentence) to death with him, because possessing a nature identical to our father Adam. It is the sinful nature that was/is condemned to death (cf. Rom. 5:18). Jesus Christ came into the world possessing this same (or like) sinful Adamic nature, common to all Adam’s posterity, therefore, he likewise came into the world under the Adamic condemnation (i.e., the death sentence – “in Adam”). Proofs: Heb. 4:15 with Jas. 1:14; Lk. 22:28; Rom. 5:18.
    5. The Adamic nature, which Jesus possessed, was the Cause (reason) for God requiring Jesus’ death. In this, God was “just, and the justifier of those that believe in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26), though Jesus himself was sinless, and innocent of the great transgression. The Adamic nature: (a) mentally/morally, and (b) physically, does not qualify one to be in fellowship with our creator. Mankind, Jesus included, was/is born into the world in this stat of disfavor and estrangement, according to the law of condemnation. Therefore, a transformation, a change, must be effected before fellowship with God is possible; first, a mental/moral, relative (legal) transformation; and, finally, a physical transformation (or change). Ref. to (a) – Rom. 12:1-2; II Cor. 5:17-19; Eph. 4:22-24. Ref. to (b) – Rom. 8:18-23; Phil. 3:21; I Cor. 15:50-52.

II. The Sacrifice of Christ

    1. The “sin of the world” – what is it by definition? (cf. Jn. 1:29 with Heb. 2:14; 9:26, I Jn. 3:8).

It is by scriptural terminology defined as:

    1. The carnal mind – Rom. 8:6-8
    2. The mind of the flesh – Rom. 8:5,8,13
    3. The law of sin in the members – Rom. 7:17-25
    4. The heart of (the natural) man – Jer. 17:9; Matt. 15:18-20
    5. The old man – Rom. 6:6; Eph. 4:22
    6. The diabolos (devil) – Heb. 2:14; I Jn. 3:8
    7. The sin-in-the-flesh – Rom. 8:3
    8. The sin – Jn. 1:29; Heb. 9:26
    9. The sinful impulses (motions of sin) – Rom. 7:5

In short, it is the sinful Adamic nature, “which is the cause of all its diseases, death, and resolution into dust. It is that in the flesh “which has the power of death”, and it is called sin because the development, or fixation, of this evil in the flesh, was the result of transgression.” (Elpis Israel, p. 126)

    1. Did Jesus possess the Adamic nature, common to all descendants of Adam? Mentally/morally and physically? Answer: Was Jesus tempted to sinning? Absolutely! (Heb. 4:15) Did Jesus possess a mortal, death-inclining, death-doomed physical body? Absolutely (Heb. 2:16).
    2. How was Jesus different in nature, compared to the rest of humanity, before or since, he came into the world? Certainly not in his physical bodily nature. How then? Jesus was the recipient of a mental/moral intellect that far exceeded and excelled and of the sons of Adam. Whence came this special aspect of his Adamic nature? From God, his father! At an early age (12 at least), he know who he was, and what was his purpose on earth:
    1. “I came down from heaven” - Jn. 6:38
    2. “I proceeded forth and came from God, neither came I of myself, but He sent me” - Jn. 8:42
    3. “the words I speak are not mine, but the Fathers who sent me” - John 14:24
    4. “I and my Father are one” – Jn. 10:30
    5. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” – Jn. 14:9
    6. “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father” – Jn. 6:57
    7. “But I know him; for I am from him, and He has sent me” – Jn. 7:29
    8. “I can of mine ownself do nothing I seek not mine out will, but the will of the Father who hath sent me.” – Jn. 5:30

He came not to manifest the Adamic nature, though he bore I tin both aspects, but rather, he was sent to break, as it were , the law (or principle) of his own (Adamic) nature, in its mental/moral aspect.

He destroyed, in himself, the sinful nature: first, by making it a captive; and finally, by putting it to death. (Heb. 2:14; Heb. 9:26)

By shedding his own blood, he hath “taken away the sin of the world, i.e., the Adamic sinful nature.

Proposition IX – Statement of Faith

That it was this mission that necessitated the miraculous begattal of Christ of a virgin descendant of Adam, enabling him to bear our condemnation, and, at the same time, to be a sinless bearer thereof, and, therefore, one who could after suffering the death required by the righteousness of God; and thus he destroyed in his own mortal nature that having the power of death, which is the devil; and will finally destroy the devil, or sin in the flesh in all its forms of manifestation. (see proofs)

    1. Was Christ’s sacrifice for himself, as well as, for others; or, was it only for other, and not for himself? (Free-life?) Answer (with a question) – Did he possess the Adamic condemned nature, common to all Adam’s descendants? (cf. Heb. 7:27).
    2. The Adamic sinful nature came under the condemnation; a nature common to all Adam’s descendants, as a result of Adam’s sin. Christ possessed this nature, therefore, his sacrifice was “first for himself, then for the sins of the people” – Heb. 7:27; 5:1-4.

His Adamic nature, of necessity, had to be cleansed from the defilement of sin, which results in death, in order to become the means (or “way”) that others might benefit from his sin-and-death cleansing sacrifice.

His Adamic nature was first, symbolically cleansed by circumcision and baptism, and literally, by his own sacrificial death, which resulted in his being glorified with God’s divine nature. Ref. The Blood of the Covenant, p. 21-23,26-28, by Bro. J.J. Andrew (1894).

We (i.e., anyone) benefits from Christ’s atoning (sin cleansing) sacrifice by symbolically uniting ourselves with him in his literal death to sin, by being baptized into his name.

We then have the hope of literally becoming completely cleansed of the defilement of sin and death, when we shall Immortalized at Christ’s judgment seat.

“Though he were a son (of God), yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered, and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (Heb. 5:8-9).

Final Observation:

Mainline, conservative Christadelphians, both Amended and Unamended, are agreed upon the Bible teaching concerning the nature and sacrifice of Christ.

The law of condemnation (e.g. Adamic Condemnation) and its definition and application, is the root of the division of thought – that originally divided and created the two main divisions of Christadelphia:

Amended – define Adamic Condemnation to be mortality and proneness to sin.

Unamended – define Adamic Condemnation to be the sentence (by law) to death; the death state, to which, Adam was sentenced by law; the law of sin and death.

These two contrasting definitions, each have a bearing upon the related teachings (doctrines) concerning: the Nature of Man; the Nature and (relative) Sacrifice of Christ; Atonement (which includes baptism and its design and purpose); the design and purpose of Covenant Relationship; and the Resurrection and Judgment.

In all of these differences of belief and convictions that has divided Christadelphia, what was/is the single most cause for the great, unfortunate, God-dishonoring, truth-nullifying division that prevails in Christadelphia?

Without a doubt – the theory of the Responsibility of the Gentile Enlightened Rejecter to the Judgment Seat of Christ!

The division of thought, pro or con, that evolved within the two main factions, was necessarily influenced, pro or con, by this unfortunate theory.

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Updated last on 2023-02-07.